Yes! Another connection from "Blind Speed Dating"! *Sigh* "Blind Speed Dating" really was fun, wasn't it? Can't wait till next February!
Anyway, it's never too late to party!!!! So let's party now with author Kat Ellis and agent Molly Ker Hawn!!! And stop in to read Kat's BSD contest entry for HELLFIRE.
First, we'll chat with cool Kat. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.) Make sure you check out her twitter and blog, too, cuz she really is cool!!!
C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?
C: How long have you been writing?
I've been writing properly for about 4 years. I say 'properly' because I'll assume we're going to pretend the teen years where I wrote emo poetry in a little black book don't count. *Performs secret handshake with Cupid* Thanks.
C: How long did it take you to write PURGE?
It took me about 8 months altogether, spread over 4 years. When I first wrote it, PURGE was a very different animal - it was an adult sci-fi (it's now YA sci-fi) and had a few significant plot/character differences. After realising the first incarnation sucked, I put it away for 3 years before I finally figured out what I wanted to do with it.
C: How many did you query with this novel?
The first go-round (when it sucked), I queried about 15 agents before one very kindly clued me in to the reasons it wasn't working. After I reworked it, I queried about another 30 before signing with my amazing agent, Molly!
C: What made you decide to enter the contest?
I was pretty new to twitter, but I kept reading about these awesome contests run by a cherubic anonymous author, so decided to check out BSD for myself. I was querying my other manuscript, Hellfire, at the time, so that was what I entered into the contest. Molly had seen a few pages of this already, and placed the winning bid on my entry to request more. I was beyond thrilled, even though Hellfire didn't end up being the manuscript which sealed the deal. It's still on the back burner, though!
C: What is your favorite part of the writing process?
I love outlining. (I know, I'm weird like that.) I like knowing where I'm going with each scene, and how I want the plot and the characters to develop. I'm also a major scatterbrain, so having the outline helps me to avoid forgetting things (like the ending, MC's name, the major reveal... *sigh*)
C: What is your least favorite part of the writing process?
Drafting the first 10k. This is where I'll usually doubt myself the most, and keep going over and over what I've written. Should I change the POV? Write it in 3rd or 1st? Dual narratives? Am I starting in the right place? And so on. The real reason for this is that I once reached 60k into a draft and realised it needed to be written in 1st person - I had to go back and basically rewrite the whole thing. And really, I'm much too lazy to want to do that again.
C: If you could only pick up three things from the grocery store, what would they be?
Serious coffee ("My name is Kat, and I'm a caffeine addict.") Microwaveable meals, because I never cook - not because I can't or don't like it, but I feel *guilty* for spending time on food prep when I'm drafting a manuscript. And wine. I don't need to explain that last one, right? ;)
C: What advice do you have for other writers?
When you're not writing, READ. Writing a novel isn't really a solo effort - we learn writing tips and techniques from other authors whose books we read, and if you beta read another writer's manuscript, it helps you develop a keener editorial eye for your own work.
C: What did you do to celebrate your offer?
First, I did an epic Running Man dance routine in my living room. Then I lay on the floor and stared at the ceiling while my brain rebooted. After that, I went out for a meal to my favourite restaurant with my husband and best friend.
C: Tell us a little about your success story:
Before entering the BSD contest, I'd been in the query trenches a while and my request rate was OK, but not great. Entering the contest looked like a really fun way to get my work seen by a stellar group of agents, and my twitter pals were entering too, so I thought: why not?
Getting Molly's request from BSD, and her notes on Hellfire after she'd read it, really encouraged me to persevere. Molly said she would be interested in my next project (which I'd mentioned I was working on), and as soon as I finished revising Purge, I queried Molly. She asked for the full right away, and a few weeks later came back with a R&R request. Her notes were absolutely brilliant, and I could see right away that revising it as Molly had suggested would make Purge stronger. So I did that, sent it back, and a few days later I had an email asking if Molly could give me a call. There followed the Running Man/ceiling-staring episode described above, and a telephone conversation where I'm fairly sure I sounded like a strangled five-year-old. Somehow, I ended up being signed by an amazing agent who could overlook such things.
Now I'm waiting to see how Purge gets on out there in the big, wide world of publishing - with baited breath, crossed fingers, and everything generally clenched.
I never get sick of these interviews, and I totally agree about writing the first 10K being the worst part. Now let's hear from the awesome Molly Ker Hawn! Make sure you check out her info here and follow her on twitter!
C: First things first, what is your sweet of choice?
Anything with caramel. I will eat caramels and toffees until I'm ill. Every time.
C: At what point during a MS can you usually tell you are going to offer?
Somewhere in the first twenty pages, I get the feeling that I might love this manuscript -- and I start hoping that the story isn't about to fall apart in the next chapter.
C: How can you tell?
When I start looking around for someone to show a particularly good line in the manuscript. Usually it's one of my agency colleagues, but I have in fact done this to a stranger on the Tube. Once. When I want to share how terrific the idea or the writing is, I know I want to sell the book.
C: What is the first thing you will do after finishing a MS you are going to offer on?
I make rough notes about any editorial suggestions I want to make to the author. I look at the author's blog or Twitter feed, if she's put links to them in her query. I might run the project by a colleague if i'm worried the project's similar to something else that's already been published or is in the works. And then I sleep, because my reactions to the manuscript solidify overnight and then I have a very clear idea of what I want to say to the author.
C: Do you ever offer on a MS that you had to take time to decide on first? Or is it typically a fast and easy love?
The impulse is usually pretty fast, though I weigh other aspects of the book beyond "I LOVE THIS!" Can I think of specific editors I'd submit it to? Does it need more work than I have time for at the moment? Is it too similar to another project that's out there already? It's got to be a business decision as well as an emotional one.
C: Do YOU like to do anything to celebrate before/after MAKING "The Call"?
I don't celebrate till the author accepts my offer! But after I make the call, I usually engage in some thrilling administrative tasks like tidying up my desk or updating my editor database because I'm full of nervous energy and it needs an outlet.
C: Do you have any advice for a writer who just received "The Call"?
If you hang up the phone and realize you forgot to ask all of your sensible questions, call or email the agent back. You need to make a considered decision when offered representation, and a good agent won't mind you getting all the information you need. I always give the author a general idea of the scope of the revisions I'd recommend so that if she totally disagrees with me, we'll know that we probably aren't destined to work together.
C: What kind of things can you forgive in a MS when considering offering? What things must already be in good shape?
The voice has to be clear and fresh, and the MC's journey has to be one that I have a strong emotional reaction to. If those two crucial aspects of the book are solid, I can work with it.
C: If you could only grab three things from the grocery store, what would they be?
Tea. Milk for the tea. Everything else is negotiable.
C: What made you request the full on PURGE?
When I turned down an earlier project from Kat (which I really liked, but felt would be tough to sell as a debut), I asked if she had anything else in the works. When she said she did, I asked her to send me the full.
C: What made you offer on PURGE?
Lots of things. I loved Mason's voice -- he's smart, he's confident, he's capable of real emotion, but he's also a bad boy, and I find that irresistible. I love science fiction, and the world Kat dreamed up for Mason is intriguing and accessible while still being really, really creepy. And Mason's journey is a tense and complicated one, which I appreciate -- I like it when books make me think. Kat's written a smart, sexy book, and as soon as I finished it, I wanted to read it again.
C: What is the most common reason you will NOT upgrade a partial to a full?
I very rarely request partials -- only from contest entries, really, where I've only seen a query or a few hundred words. I ask for the first ten pages in my submission guidelines.
C: What is your biggest advice for writers seeking agents?
Do your research, follow submission guidelines, and be persistent and professional.
C: What is your favorite part of being a literary agent?
It's something different every day, and it constantly engages my brain. For someone who gets bored easily, it's ideal.
C: Anything specific you are seeking right now?
Another four hours in each day, please.
C: Now please tell us something super weird about yourself. :)
Whenever I'm near a swimming pool, I can only with great effort control my urge to dive into it. When I went to Hearst Castle and the tour guide took my group out to that giant pool, I had to move to the back of the crowd to keep myself from jumping in the water. Is that a disorder of some kind? Wait, don't answer that.
Okay, Molly, we won't :) Seriously, love the answer to that last question every time!
THANKS to both you lovely ladies for letting me interview you, and I wish you both much success with PURGE! Can't wait to read it!